Directors: Jonathan Frakes, Doug Aarniokoski, Dan Liu, Deborah Kampmeier and Terry Matalas Screenplay: Terry Matalas, Christopher Monfette, Sean Tretta, Janes Maggs, Cindy Appel, Matt Okomura and Kiley Rossetter
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Michael Dorn, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Jeri Ryan, Michelle Hurd, Ed Speleers, Amanda Plummer, Mica Burton, Ashlei Sharpe Chesnut, Todd Stashwick, Orla Brady and Daniel Davis
Genre: Science Fiction
Premiere: February 16th (Prime Video)
This review is based on the first six episodes of Star Trek: Picard – Season 3.
The spaceship U.S.S. Titan is sinking. You wouldn’t think that a spaceship could sink, but it is now trapped in a gravitational field and is being dragged down into the depths of a cosmic cloud where the massive force of gravity will eventually crush it. The crew works frantically to find a way out but above the cloud patrols the mysterious spaceship of the murderous Captain Vadoc. This is Star Trek at its best!
After a long hiatus, Star Trek fully returned to our screens when the American director J.J. Abrams gave us Star Trek in 2009. Admittedly, this was a reboot of sorts with Chris Pine in the role of Captain Kirk, and although the film did well in theaters, it received a somewhat mixed reception from the most ardent fans of Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future. The film gave us two sequels and paved the way for a new era of Star Trek, which would largely take place on streaming services with series like Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and Star Trek: Picard.
Star Trek: Picard is the show about what I would argue is the most iconic of the Star Trek captains. Veteran British actor Sir Patrick Stewart played Captain Jean-Luc Picard for seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation between 1987 and 1994. During those years, the Captain and his crew sailed up and became some of the most familiar faces from the many weekly televised science fiction series that ran at the time. Where many other science fiction series leaned heavily on action and violence in a dark future, Star Trek: The Next Generation followed original series creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a utopian future where violence is only a last resort.
However, Star Trek: The Next Generation gradually changed after Gene Roddenberry’s death. As the universe he created became darker and more filled with conflict, action-centric episodes became more common. Spinoff series like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager leaned heavily into these themes. Soon the galaxy was embroiled in a full-scale war with The Dominion War and other conflicts, which set the stage for multi-episode, even season-long story arcs.
After seven seasons, feature films and spinoffs, we haven’t heard much from former Captain, now retired Admiral Jean-Luc Picard. That changed in 2020 when the first season of Star Trek: Picard launched on Prime Video. In this season, we meet the elderly Jean-Luc, who lives out his older days at a vineyard in France. But the past catches up with him, and it’s off to an adventure in space with a new crew.
The first thing that struck me when I watched this new series was how Star Trek has changed. Star Trek: Picard really embraced the darker developments that occurred after Gene Roddenberry’s death, mainly forgetting several essential elements of the utopian society he envisioned. As a result of this and other strange choices by the writers and showrunners, the first two seasons were rather bland, trying to reinvent the wheel when what fans wanted was that which was already there. It could easily seem as if the series creators were intent on changing the essential core of Star Trek.
However, that changed in the third and final season of Star Trek: Picard. Here we are back to more traditional Star Trek, and it’s wonderful to see the series finally find its footing, even if it took two seasons to get here. This season, more so than the two others, is admittedly very nostalgia-driven, but this is a season about the journey’s end and what a journey it has been! We know we probably won’t see Patrick Stewart and the rest of his original crew in these roles again, and that’s profoundly moving.
The third season of Star Trek: Picard begins when Picard receives a distress signal from his old ship’s doctor and sometimes girlfriend, Dr. Beverly Crusher (played by Gates McFadden). She is clearly in trouble and is injured after an unpleasant encounter with a mysterious enemy. Picard teams up with his old second-in-command, the retired William Riker (played by Jonathan Frakes, who also directs a couple of the episodes), and the two hatch a plan to «borrow» Riker’s old starship, the U.S.S. Titan, to go rescue Dr. Crusher.
Posing as high-ranking officers, they board the U.S.S. Titan, meeting second-in-command Commander Seven of Nine (played by Jeri Ryan). The three manage to trick the stubborn captain of the ship, Captain Liam Shaw (played by Todd Stashwick) into heading for the source of the distress signal. There they meet more than they expected. A mysterious warship with a crew posing as bounty hunters is looking for one of the crew members aboard Beverly Crusher’s ship. But the sinister Captain Vadic (played by Amanda Plummer) is far more than she pretends to be.
While this is happening, former Starfleet officer Raffi Musiker (played by Michelle Hurd) works undercover in criminal circles. When a terrorist attack wipes out a Starfleet recruiting facility, she teams up with Klingon Worf (played by Michael Dorn) to get to the bottom of the mystery and find those behind it. And not unexpectedly, this has something to do with the trouble Picard and his crew have gotten themselves into.
After two very uneven seasons of Star Trek: Picard, this final season delivers everything I wanted from a modern Star Trek series. The whole gang is back. There’s tension, humor and interpersonal drama on par with the best of what Star Trek offers. And for science fiction nerds like me, it’s great to see a Star Trek series that actually focuses on starships and, you know, drama set among the stars.
Borrowing heavily from spy thrillers, this season of Star Trek: Picard has something very Tom Clancy-esque about it. Here there are terrorist attacks, espionage, and cat-and-mouse chases between spaceships reminiscent of something straight out of Hunt for the Red October or Crimson Tide. A Star Trek comparison would be the fan-favorite Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan from 1982. The story is intense, but at the same time, it allows for breathing space we need to get to know new and old faces. It feels, at times, like a family reunion. And it often is.
This season also continues the harsher and dystopian version of Star Trek established in the first season but avoids the more obvious contradictions and breaks in established world-building those seasons were guilty of. At the same time, this season manages to give us a tougher, darker Star Trek without it being exaggerated or cringy, something the previous season struggled with quite a bit. This is mainly due to what season three of Star Trek: Picard is about: recognizable, traditional Star Trek as seen through a modern and adult filter. And yes, it is remarkable to hear Jean-Luc Picard say «fuck» in one sentence. But he does here, and amazingly it works!
It isn’t easy to compare modern Star Trek with how the series was when it was on TV screens weekly in the 80s and 90s. The quality of the old episodes was of a very mixed bag, from the banal and even downright inane to the drama of the highest quality. And with strict shooting schedules and weekly broadcasts, the quality of those series was at the mercy of Hollywood politics at the time, such as writers’ strikes.
Also, in modern Star Trek, the quality has been somewhat mixed, from the great (Strange New Worlds and the first two seasons of Star Trek: Discovery) to the mediocre (the first two seasons of Star Trek: Picard and seasons three and four of Star Trek: Discovery).
This third and final season of Star Trek: Picard is a beautiful swansong for Jean-Luc Picard. I’m also overjoyed to see the old gang together again: Riker, Worf, LaForge, Troi and a few more I dont want to mention to avoid spoilers. One last voyage, one last adventure. Being the Star Trek fan that I am, this is a real treat!
We end with this wonderful quote from Michael Down’s Klingon warrior Worf:
I am Worf, Son of Mogh, House of Martok, Son of Sergei, House of Rozhenko, Bane to the Duras Family, Slayer of Gowron. I have made some chamomile tea. Do you take sugar?-Worf, Son of Mogh, House of Martok, Son of Sergei, House of Rozhenko, Bane to the Duras Family, Slayer of Gowron (Star Trek: Picard – Season 3)